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Politics

Collins Criticizes VA for Slowness to Act on Alzheimer's Care

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald was peppered with questions from members of the Senate Appropriations committee on why it takes so long for the VA to respond to problems in the agency.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says the VA has been reviewing rules that would allow respite care for veterans suffering from Alzheimer's or other dementia since 2008.

"I really think this is something that should be finalized and should not have taken six years and still be pending," Collins said.

"We agree and will get back to you," McDonald replied.

Collins also told McDonald the agency needs to speed up its payment process for claims from hospitals and other health care providers. She says the VA often takes so long to decide a claim that hospitals have lost their opportunity to bill a secondary insurer of a veteran such as Medicare or a private insurance company.

"If the VA ultimately denies the claim, the hospital has missed the deadline for filing a claim for reimbursement to a secondary insurer such as Medicare," she says. "So what happens is the health care provider ends up not getting paid at all."